Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published June 14th 2021
Highways feel like they're always there
Near me, the main highway is being revamped, and this has been happening for around twelve months with many more months of restrictions, speed limits and bored looking workers to come. It means travel to the state's capital can take double the length of time it used to. Now, I understand these things need to happen and when it's finished everything will be better, but that doesn't mean it's annoying right now.
Well, I was travelling on this road recently and a song came on my music playing device 'Life is A Highway'. I laughed, thinking about how apt that was looking at the slowness around me, the obstacles I needed to overcome to travel this road and suddenly this column idea was born.
Not just roads, but highways and freeways. Those mighty thoroughfares that connect distant places via one solid strip of bitumen. The things that seem to be in a permanent state of being dug up. And there are a large number of songs about highways. So, to cut down the hundred-odd in my collection, I decided the word "Highway" has to be in the title. Then, I have to like the song, one song per artist, one version of each song, the normal rules. Still, this ended up being a decent sized list at 15. If people like this one, I might do one on roads as well. Let me know in the comments if that's something that could be of interest.
Anyway, songs about Highways!
'Highway 61 Revisited' by Bob Dylan (1965)
From its weird penny-whistle-like sounds to the incredible lyrics, the title track from Bob Dylan's best album (in my opinion) is a great example of Dylan at the peak of his powers. This is a great track from a great album.
'Highway Chile' by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1967)
This song really only serves as an excuse for Hendrix to play a few guitar solos and have fun. The story is basically a version of Chuck Berry's 'Johnny B. Goode' but that hardly matters it's all about the guitar playing. And those opening licks are iconic.
'Key To The Highway' by Derek And the Dominos (1970)
When people think of Eric Clapton's short-lived group, they think of 'Layla' and that's about it. But there were so many tracks on that album that were magnificent, and this blues jam (the song is an older blues classic) is one of them. Some awesome guitar playing just makes this a classic that is too often forgotten.
'Highway 49' by Howlin' Wolf (1971)
When blues and rock collide, you often find Howlin' Wolf and his ilk. His influence on music in the 1960s cannot be underestimated, and it is tracks like this version of a 1930s blues classic which show why blues did not have to be simply slow jams and depressing lyrics, they could rock with the best of them. While this was recorded later, he had been playing the song on stage for years.
'Highway Star' by Deep Purple (1972)
One of my favourite tracks by Deep Purple, led by that pounding guitar riff and a tight band behind that, along with the glorious singing (this was the Mark II line-up). I used this as a workout song for years, it is so good at getting you moving and moving fast.
'Ventura Highway' by America (1972)
That country-rock that America did so well is exemplified here in one of their better known and more beloved tracks. The smooth vocal harmonies and laid-back style is what made America so appealing and is on full show here.
'Trans-Canada Highway' by Gene Pitney (1974)
I grew up hearing this song on one of my father's many Gene Pitney albums. My liking for Pitney and his music has survived the ensuing forty-plus years, and this is actually one of my favourite of his songs, maybe because it is different to the desperate heart-wrenching ballads he seemed to favour. I still like this track, even now, and was glad I listened to it again after so many years.
'Highway To Hell' by AC/DC (1979)
One of the best songs from the Bon Scott era of AC/DC, this track is propelled along by that incredible guitar playing and Bon Scott's vocals with the rest of the band as good as ever behind them, especially Malcolm Young holding down the rhythm and that simple yet effective drumming and bass playing. So good.
'Highway Patrolman' by Bruce Springsteen (1982)
Nebraska is not my favourite Springsteen album, but that does not mean there are not good songs on it, and this is one of the ones I prefer from that CD. A slow, depressing tale of the titular character who may have let his criminal brother get away. Lyrically, it is wonderful. As usual for Springsteen.
'Kings Of The Highway' by Chris Isaak (1989)
The gentle crooning of Isaak is on show here in this album cut from his break-through album, Heart Shaped World. A nice, laid-back track with Isaak's voice front and centre.
'Life Is A Highway' by Tom Cochrane (1991)
The song that started me down this particular rabbit hole. This is such a joyous, upbeat song that even now, so many years later, it brings a smile to my face and I will scream along whenever I am in the car with this great track.
'King's Highway' by Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers (1991)
An album cut from a great Tom Petty album (Into the Great Wide Open), this song is a fun track that rocks along in the laid-back southern rock manner that many of Petty's best works used.
'Running Up The Highway' by UFO (1992)
Like many UFO tracks, this is a harder rocking song, an album cut from High Stakes And Dangerous Men. It just chugs along nicely and could well have been released as a single.
'Mystic Highway' by John Fogerty (2013)
One of the longest songs Fogerty has recorded (the album version is over 6 minutes long), this track also shows that the man knows his way around a guitar. Further, more than forty years after the end of Creedence Clearwater Revival, this shows Fogerty still has "it". A great rocking track.
'Roll On Down the Highway' by Bachman-Turner Overdrive (1974)
BTO released a lot of great rocking songs over their relatively brief time as a band, and this is one of many that are really good. With the speed and rhythm to give the idea of actually driving along, it is such a great driving song.
So, that was a playlist to listen to while you are stuck at the back of a two kilometre long traffic jam because they are digging up a one foot by one foot section of road to fix a pothole. Remember to let me know if you want me to look at roads.